New Zealand
Hansen demands more from departing Vito
November 17, 2014
Scotland 16-24 New Zealand (Australia only)

Coach Steve Hansen is demanding a massive Super Rugby season from Victor Vito after the loose forward was forced to hobble out of the All Blacks tour.

Injured No.8 Vito flew out of London on Sunday as the rest of the New Zealand squad arrived in Cardiff, a day after their 24-16 win over Scotland at Murrayfield. Also flying home was lock Dominic Bird, who was called into the squad last week as cover for Brodie Retallick and Patrick Tuipulotu. That pair have both recovered from shoulder niggles and are fit to face the Welsh. Also available for the last Test of the year is veteran centre Conrad Smith, who rejoined the squad on Sunday after returning home last week to attend to a personal issue.

The Edinburgh Test was bittersweet for Vito, who scored a spectacular early try from 45m out to light up an otherwise stodgy Test. After a solid 38-minute shift he pulled his right calf muscle and Hansen says the exasperated look on his face as he was helped off reflected his mood afterwards.

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"He's pretty disappointed to be fair. He's waited a long time to get that opportunity," Hansen said. "He was building into the game quite nicely and his ball carrying was good."

Hansen had delivered the same pre-Test instructions to Vito that he has issued over the past two seasons, to be more physical. His performance got the thumb's up from Hansen but he says the 27-year-old will need more of the same on a consistent basis next year if he is to force a World Cup berth. "Super Rugby's going to be important for him."

On form, Vito is potentially locked in a battle with Blues utility forward Stephen Luatua, who he replaced for this tour, for a sixth loose forward berth at the World Cup. Meanwhile, Hansen was forced to fend off numerous questions from Welsh media about the possible makeup of his team on Sunday.

Much interest centred on whether Dan Carter's rusty return at first five-eighth in Edinburgh would impact on his selection hopes. Hansen wouldn't bite, although he did nominate lock Jeremy Thrush as a player who had improved his cause with a strong outing against Scotland. When asked about Charles Piutau, Hansen agreed the lively winger was another to impress.


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